Posted by Joshua on Monday, April 13th, 2009
Qifa Nabki give us a fine analysis of the meaning of Hizbullah’s election campaign:
Everything suggests a shift of strategy by the Hizb towards emphasizing the themes of good governance, national unity, gradual reformism, and fighting corruption, while placing the military resistance on the back burner. In this context, one wonders whether the oft-asked question regarding the price for Hizbullah’s “integration” into Lebanese politics is a stale and irrelevant one, as it seems increasingly as though the Hizb is not waiting for anyone to make them an offer. Take a look at the campaign posters (above and left). The party’s famous Kalashnikov logo has been deliberately faded to contrast it with a bold-faced LEBANON, beneath three scratched-out titles: “your Lebanon,” “our Lebanon,” “their Lebanon.” It’s a strong message, and one which immediately brings to mind Saad al-Hariri’s promise to refuse joining a government of national unity after the elections…. (read the rest)
Lebanon’s Hezbollah savors increasing legitimacy
By Borzou Daragahi
As some Western nations seek contacts, Hezbollah’s No. 2, cleric Naim Qassem, says the group has ‘convinced the West it is a popular, authentic and important movement that cannot be ignored.’
To defeat Hezbollah, the US Defense Department has spent millions of dollars since the 2006 War. “I’ve organized five major games in the last two years, and all of them have focused on Hezbollah,” said Frank Hoffman, a research fellow at the [US] Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico. From Wash Post.
“Lebanon’s sovereignty, democracy, prosperity and stability are a priority for all of us,” insists U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison.
Hezbollah’s Head of Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammad Raad takes US Ambassador Sison to task for insisting that Hizbullah represents a threat to Lebanon. He insists this does not jive with her call for independence and sovereignty. “Who is Sison to say that Hizbullah represents a threat to Lebanon and the region?” Raad asked, adding that Hizbullah was a threat to “all the Israeli schemes, plans and projects against Lebanon.”
Abu Muqawama explains why he believes Hizbullah has overreached in the Egyptian affair. Egypt is cracking down.
Damascus Stock Exchange plans to widen the 2 percent share-price limit: Damascus Exchange Trading Volume to Stay Limited Until End 2009
2009-04-13 – By Nadim Issa
April 13 (Bloomberg) — The Damascus Securities Exchange won’t have major trading volume until the end of 2009 because of the limited number of listed companies and investors, said Mohammad al-Jleilati, chief executive officer of the bourse.
Volume will remain low until the exchange reaches around 20 listed companies compared with seven now traded, al-Jleilati said by phone from Damascus. Less than 200 investors have opened accounts with brokers in Syria since the exchange started trading, he added.
The exchange, which started trading shares March 10 and is open twice a week, has since struggled to attract liquidity. Brokerages say the share fluctuation limit, set at 2 percent per trading day, has curtailed volume and are hoping the regulation will be revised.
The DSE planned to widen the 2 percent share-price trading band as soon as market conditions permit, al-Jleilati said.
“There is no problem with the trading limit since the listed companies are witnessing a rise in their prices every trading day,” Jleilati said. “None has declined since the opening of the bourse.”
He added that shareholders also are unlikely to sell their holdings until they collect dividends approved at general shareholder meetings in March and April, further limiting trading.
Four companies rose today to the limit of their trading band, while Bank of Syria & Overseas, Bank Audi-Syria and Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi didn’t trade. The value of shares traded in the ten transactions executed on the four companies reached 925,690 Syrian pounds ($19,800), according to the exchange’s daily bulletin.
Can the US put Pressure on Israel? Stephen Walt in FP.
“….This idea appears to be gaining ground. Several weeks ago, a bipartisan panel of distinguished foreign policy experts headed by Henry Siegman and Brent Scowcroft issued a thoughtful report calling for the Obama administration to “engage in prompt, sustained, and determined efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Success, they noted, “will require a careful blend of persuasion, inducement, reward, and pressure…” Last week, the Economist called for the United States to reduce its aid to Israel if the Netanyahu government continues to reject a two-state solution. The Boston Globe offered a similar view earlier this week, advising Obama to tell Netanyahu “to take the steps necessary for peace or risk compromising Israel’s special relationship with America.” A few days ago, Ha’aretz reported that the Obama Administration was preparing Congressional leaders for a possible confrontation with the Netanyahu government. .. [he provides a number of ways to pressure Israel]
Imad Moustapha’s interview on CNN this week:Embedded video from CNN Video
LEBANON-SYRIA: Wretched conditions for Syrian workers: Syrians in Lebanon remain the last unregulated labour force
By Brooke Anderson
BEIRUT, 13 April 2009 (IRIN) – Rights and labour groups say almost all the estimated 300,000 Syrians working in Lebanon have no official status, often endure dangerous conditions, and earn about US$300 a month doing jobs shunned by most Lebanese.
In 2006, the Labour Ministry issued just 471 work permits to Syrian nationals, meaning the remainder worked unregistered. According to 2008 research by Beirut-based InfoPro, over 75 percent of Syrians in Lebanon work in construction, 15 percent are cleaners and bin men, and 10 percent hawkers.
About 15 percent of Syria’s workforce is in Lebanon. They often either live on the construction site where they work or share tiny flats with a dozen other workers.
René Matta, general manager of Matta Contracting, a Lebanese company whose workforce is 70 percent Syrian, said Syrian labour in Lebanon “should be more organised, so that people aren’t oppressed”…..
Many Syrians in Lebanon have been attacked, robbed, beaten and sometimes killed over the past four years.
Despite the recent opening of an embassy in Beirut, few Syrian labourers in Lebanon think their labour rights and personal safety will be protected any time soon.
“If something happened to me, who would I complain to?” asked Eide, an 18-year-old Syrian construction worker who has been living and working in Lebanon for 10 months. Eide said he lives in daily fear of attack by anti-Syrian Lebanese gangs: “It’s not unusual for Lebanese to ask for our ID cards on the street and then take our money because we’re Syrian.”….
Nadim Houry, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Beirut, … “It’s part of Lebanon’s history,” said Houry. “Syrian workers have become scapegoats because they’re perceived as weak. There is an issue of discrimination in Lebanon towards those of lower socio-economic status. They look down upon poor people from rural areas. It’s a sort of socio-economic racism.”
In its 2 January edition, Al-Akhbar, one of the few Lebanese newspapers to regularly cover the issue, reported that a Syrian worker was robbed at gunpoint by a member of the Lebanese military in civilian clothing. In late December 2008, the same newspaper reported a Syrian had been killed during a robbery near Byblos. In the same month, a Syrian worker of Kurdish origin was found hanged in his own shoe shop in Bar Elias in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon.
Many incidents go unreported. In interviews with 10 Syrian workers at construction sites throughout Beirut, all said they had been victims of robberies and occasional beatings by Lebanese; all said it had been because they are Syrian; none said they had reported the incidents to the authorities.
“I don’t have any Lebanese friends. I never have,” said one Syrian construction worker. “Why should I? They don’t like us.”